Was Westphalia 'All That'? Hobbes, Bellarmine, and the Norm of Non-Intervention

21 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 23 Sep 2010

See all articles by Jonathan Havercroft

Jonathan Havercroft

University of Oklahoma - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2010


Scholars such as Stephen Krasner, Nicholas Onuf, Justin Rosenberg and Benno Teschke have called into question the significance of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 as the date when the international system formed. One of their primary arguments is that the non-intervention norm typically associated with Westphalian notions of sovereignty developed much later (scholars typically offer the late 18th century or early 19th century as the period when this norm developed). This paper will examine the early 17th century debates over the right of the Pope to depose monarchs in the defense of spiritual matters. Part III and Part IV of Hobbes’ Leviathan will be read in its intellectual context to see how his theory of sovereignty was partially developed to support a theory of non-intervention – at least with respect to the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal states. This reading leads to two important contributions to current political science debates. First, it refutes the growing consensus that non-intervention developed as an aspect of sovereignty only in the late 18th and early 19th century. Instead, I argue that non-intervention was one of the principle reasons early theorists of sovereignty developed and defended the concept. Second, the paper addresses current attempts to assert a right of humanitarian intervention – i.e. Responsibility To Protect norms, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, NATO’s 1999 Kosovo campaign, and Russia’s 2008 intervention in Georgia. By exploring similarities between these recent debates and those between Bellarmine and Hobbes in the 17th century, I offer a fresh perspective on what is at stake in current claims to international community.

Keywords: sovereignty, intervention, Hobbes, Bellarmine

Suggested Citation

Havercroft, Jonathan, Was Westphalia 'All That'? Hobbes, Bellarmine, and the Norm of Non-Intervention (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1644120

Jonathan Havercroft (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - Department of Political Science ( email )

455 E. Lindsey St.
405 Dale Hall Tower
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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